Q. Dear Meredith,
I am a man in my late 30s, and I met a lovely woman in her early 30s. Things were great between us for the first few months, and we talked about the future. She met my family and I went to visit hers. Things became a bit stressed with work changes and her studying for a PhD, which affected our intimacy for a while, but I knew it was temporary and that we’d adjust.
After eight months, she told me she had an eating disorder, which I had no idea about, and that she was going for treatment. I said I supported her and wanted her to be healthy. She said she “doesn’t do” vulnerability and hated talking about the problem. Then she said she wouldn’t be surprised if I wanted to take a break because of it.
I assumed she felt bad about the condition, and I said I was there to give her support in any way I could. She said it would be best for me not to contact her during the program. After a while, we communicated normally while she was there. Before she left, she said I was wonderful. She wrote a card saying she was looking forward to our future.
Days after returning, she ended the relationship, saying we weren’t a match. I am heartbroken. Can you explain what has happened here?
— Looking for answers
A. I can’t tell you exactly what happened here, but she sort of did, didn’t she? She thinks you’re wonderful but doesn’t believe you’re a match. She’s also explained that no matter how she feels about you, she needs to be healthy on her own. She’s gone through a lot, and tending to a relationship might be too much work right now.
All you can do is tell her you respect her decision and you’d be happy to hear from her if she changes her mind. You can even tell her that she’s wonderful, too. After that, walk away.
I know you’re confused by her communication, but it is possible to care for someone and then realize he or she is not the right partner for you. It’s also possible the earlier moment of stress in your relationship — the one that affected intimacy — was the first sign that things weren’t meant to be. Allow yourself to be heartbroken, but believe this woman knows what she wants.
Most people want to know “why” so that they can provide an answer and change the other person’s mind. Since that pretty much never happens it’s a waste of your time and focus.
Oftentimes when someone finally seeks help for an illness, they need to completely separate themselves from things they associate with/experienced during the peak of their illness. You were a good man for supporting her and trying to stay in her life. Sadly, now you must listen to what she’s telling you (and believe her).
“She said she ‘doesn’t do’ vulnerability and hated talking about the problem.” She couldn’t open up to you, so this relationship wasn’t going to work out anyway.
Grieve a bit, then move on confident it wasn’t you.
boston.com/loveletters. Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.